'Phenomenal package for tourists'
Resort advisory board urges Woodside residents to capitalise on area
Orantes Moore, Gleaner Writer
WOODSIDE, St Mary:CHAIRMAN OF the Resort Advisory Board for St Mary, Dr Roosevelt Crooks, has said the Jamaica National Heritage Trust's (JNHT) decision to acknowledge the sites' historic value suggests that if Woodside residents organise, position and prepare themselves, they could generate considerable revenues from the increased numbers of visitors who will be attracted to the region in the near future.
Last week, during a thoroughly entertaining and educational public meeting at the community centre in Woodside, St Mary, a delegation of experts from the JNHT revealed plans to bestow protected National Heritage status upon four sites in the area.
The ancient monuments include a centuries-old communal space similarly utilised by Africans and modern-day residents, Daddy Rock; a former plantation great house, St Gabriel's Anglican Church; 14 allegedly Arawak-designed steps carved into a rock; and an anthropomorphic rock carving, venerated as a symbol of fertility and known as One Bubby Susan or the Dryland Cave.
Crooks told Rural Xpress: "In addition to the serious potential for religious tourism, the geography, hillsides, valleys and greenery in this place are awesome and speak volumes about the agriculture.
"When all of that is put together, we have a phenomenal package for tourists, and I'm not talking about overseas tourists, but locals who are here and want to see these monuments we have heard about.
"The Government of the day has been pushing community tourism, but we have to take it away from the sea and sand and inject some heritage."
Crooks added: "I think people will come from everywhere just to see what we have here, and I'm glad the older people have been passing on the traditions. That cohesiveness needs to be maintained and honed to make this project an experience for anyone coming to this area."
Archaeologist and manager at the JNHT's research division, Lesley-Gail Anderson, praised the elder members of the Woodside community for successfully engaging with younger generations, and noted that St Mary and St Ann are the most densely populated parishes in terms of ancient Taino artefacts.
She said: "I like that there is a very strong and proud community spirit here, and it's not just among the older people, but the young people are very vibrant too. The tours here are run by a young man named Gavin Hudson, who is very passionate, and I really respect that.
"This is a great project because it helps to explain how things evolved. We start off with the Tainos, then the Africans, and then the English, and now the contemporary generation are reusing the same space and making it their own, and that's what I like."
Having battled for the last 30 years to establish Woodside as a cultural hotspot, sociologist and founder of the Woodside Community Development Action Group, Dr Erna Brodber, is overjoyed at the JNHT's proposal.
She said: "Even though there is a lot more work to do, it feels as though part of the journey has been completed, and I sincerely hope the younger people have been fired up and can take it further because I'm getting feeble and have other work to do.
"I'm hoping there will be a tourism product that can employ and invigorate some of the people in the area. If you have a place that has a meaning, it does something for people. We're getting support from all around the world; everyone is glad to hear about what's happening here."